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Dear Coleen: We want to help our sick son but his partner is shutting us out



Dear Coleen

My son is 42 and has an ex and two girls. He now lives with his current partner, their daughter and her son.

It’s been a very hard time for him. On the day his ex had a mastectomy, he was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumour .

He was due to have the girls over the holidays so his ex could recover, but that was turned on its head.

I thought his current partner had his best interests at heart, but since this nightmare began she has done ­everything to isolate my ex-husband and me. She promised to keep us in the loop, but then didn’t do any such thing.

We were desperately trying to get specialist treatment for our son, but his partner held up his records every step of the way – yet together with our younger daughter, started a Go Fund Me page for private care.

Four weeks after his diagnosis, our daughter told us he was marrying his partner and now we have no say over treatment. It’s now difficult for us to contact him and he is very muddled.

All we can do is call him and hope he calls back. If I text his partner, she accuses us of “bombarding” her. If we visit with our son’s kids, we’re told they fluster him, yet he is happy to see them. She only wants their daughter and her son there. Whenever we have visited, she acts the victim and it’s obvious she wants us gone.

If our boy was well he would object, but he is so down with his diagnosis and treatment he doesn’t notice.

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We fear if anything awful happened we wouldn’t be told. I hate to think that she’s looking at the bottom line – that’s what it seems. We’ve asked a care team at the hospital to ensure he’s being looked after, but she’s his next of kin so we have no say. Can you advise?

Coleen says

It sounds as if she wants to wrap him up in cotton wool, take care of him and shut the world out. She will be under a lot of stress and, as you suggest, may even be grieving already. Could you arrange to see her on her own and just ask how she’s feeling and coping?

Explain you don’t want to cause any more stress, but you love your son and care about all of them, and want to help in whatever way you can.

Yes, it’s wrong of her to shut you out, but instead of getting angry, try to find empathy for her. She’s potentially facing the loss of her husband and being left on her own with two ­children, as well as watching him go through treatment.

It’s a very difficult situation, so it would be very sad if it also got turned into a family feud. Perhaps you can come to an agreement on when you see him, and you could offer to sit with him so she can have a break or take the kids out. Make it about her as well.

People in this type of highly stressful situation can become very focused on dealing with the crisis in front of them and just getting through it, and might not react in ways you’d expect them to.

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It’s very challenging for all of you, but it might help to approach it by asking how you can help and taking your lead from that.

Whatever happens, your son knows how much you love him and won’t think you’re abandoning him.

I wish you the best of luck.





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